Breaking news -

0 Schools in Fukushima clearing radioactive dirt, but nowhere to dump it

Nearly 600 schools and other child-related facilities in Fukushima Prefecture have started or soon will start removing ground soil contaminated by radioactive fallout at their facilities, an Asahi Shimbun survey shows. 

In total, 584 public-run elementary schools, junior high schools, special-needs schools, kindergartens and day-care centers, or about half of all facilities in such categories in Fukushima Prefecture, are on board.
The Asahi Shimbun found that 97 percent of the schools expect to complete the work by the end of the summer break. It is estimated that 180,000 cubic meters of soil must be removed, but no plans have been drawn up for disposing of the dirt.
The problem arose because of radioactive fallout from the quake-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Part of the school grounds at the Kashima Elementary School in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, exposed a hole dug to a depth of 1.5 meters on Aug. 10. Surface soil removed will be buried in the hole by the end of the summer vacation.
The newspaper contacted all 59 municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture to find out how the 1,160 public-run schools and other facilities in the above-cited categories planned to deal with the problem.
It learned that 584 schools in 25 municipalities had started removing ground soil or planned to do so. Of that figure, 299 had completed the task by Aug. 10 and 268 expected to be finished by the end of August when the summer vacation is over. Seventeen schools said they planned to have soil removed but had yet to draw up a schedule.
A combined 97.1 percent of the schools expected to finish the task before the start of the second (autumn to winter) semester.
The municipal governments are fully behind the project. Officials are keen to prevent more children from moving outside the prefecture. They also are anticipating the day when children, who were evacuated with their families, return to their home schools for the second semester.
At one school in Tanagura town, heavy machinery was stationed on the school grounds because of repair work being done at the gymnasium. As a result, soil removal work could not start.
No soil-removal plans are in place among 287 schools located either in the Aizu region of western Fukushima Prefecture, where radiation levels are low, or in the no-entry zones near the Fukushima No. 1 plant, including Futaba and Naraha towns.
Two-hundred and eighty-nine schools, including those in Iwaki city, said they were "considering" soil removal work.
All municipal governments reported that the soil removal work had proved to be "effective," with radiation levels on school grounds falling, for example, from 3 microsieverts per hour to 0.2-0.3 microsieverts per hour as a result.
High-pressure hoses were used to clean school buildings at facilities where soil was not removed, the municipal governments said. Officials said those schools also removed sludge from side ditches and took other safety measures.
In the absence of a blueprint to dispose of the contaminated soil, schools have had to bury the dirt in their own grounds--usually in a corner in holes 1.5 to 3 meters deep.
The volume of soil in 19 municipalities, where data is available, amounted to some 178,000 cubic meters, equivalent to a pile 14 meters high covering the entire baseball field at the Tokyo Dome.
The cost of the soil removal work differs according to the size of school grounds. But many of the municipal governments set aside roughly 10 million yen ($130,000) for each junior high school and about 5 million yen for each elementary school.
In the meantime, 23 of the 90 prefectural senior high schools in Fukushima either have implemented, or plan to implement, soil-removal work. The total cost is estimated to hit at least about 6 billion yen if private-run kindergartens and day-care centers, which receive prefectural government subsidies for works, are included.
The Fukushima city government has received a number of inquiries on decontamination plans from parents of children who have been evacuated outside the prefecture.
"We cannot ask them to return, given that the families are facing a tough choice," said an official in charge of those matters. "But we wish to send out the message that we have at least a certain outlook with regard to the safety of school grounds."

No comments: